Fab, Theo and Brazil nuts

Remember how Wenger stated he’d like to get his transfers sorted before the World Cup began?

He’ll be lucky.

Most high-calibre players are content to wait until the tournament ends before thinking about what happens next – even if their agents are busy doing stuff in the background.

So when the tournament kicks off a week tomorrow, transfer deals involving players taking part in it will surely be off bounds.

We’ve got a week to go yet though – so expect a few more twists and turns, especially regarding Fabregas. Yesterday’s rebuttal of Barcelona’s €40m offer was very well crafted by the club. They spoke of “immediately and resolutely” turning it down and I must say, I did enjoy the last line.

“To be clear, we will not make any kind of counterproposal or enter into any discussion. Barcelona have publicly stated that they will respect our position and we expect that they will keep their word.”

So Arsenal are reminding Barcelona that, even though the player’s desire to leave makes a deal likely (or at least possible), Arsenal have a big say in things. And they’re also asking Barcelona to do things by the book – which of course, they haven’t and won’t.

But really, the bottom line is that any deal must be on Arsenal’s terms, and €40m doesn’t touch the sides. In a world where Villa have priced Milner at £30m, how can Fabregas only be worth £3m more?

And besides, any negotiator worth his salt will turn down an opening offer, because an opening offer is never a final one.

There was some more rumours yesterday of a deal with Chelski’s out-of-contract Joe Cole. I have no idea if there’s anything in the story or not – but what’s interesting for me is the profile of the player. He’s in his late twenties and very experienced. If he is indeed the kind of player Wenger is looking for then it’s a good sign, because we’ve got promising young players coming out our ears and they cannot do it alone. What we lack are players who have been there, done that and know what it takes.

Which I suppose segues nicely onto Walcott. His omission from the World Cup squad was the cherry on top of the icing of a bad-season cake [must do better – ed] but it’s not that baffling. Thinking back over the season, I can only think of two occasions when he took a game by the scruff of the neck – in the second half against Burnley at home, and in the last third of the Barcelona game when we ended up drawing 2-2.

Nevertheless, it’s no time to panic. He’s only 21 and started a mere 15 games last season. On top of that, he has the overwhelming goodwill of the Arsenal fans in his favour.

And finally…

I spent some time in Sao Paulo last week (took a wrong turn out of Norwich) and on my first day there, walking past a newspaper stall, I was slightly perturbed to see a gaggle of shifty-looking men congregating next to it, exchanging things furtively. There must have been eight of them in all.

Being in a new city – and one with a bit of a reputation for containing ruffians at that – I immediately assumed they were dealing in illegal substances. But as I walked past I peered closer and saw that the illegal substances in question were in fact…. Panini stickers.

That night, I mentioned this to a local and was told this was normal behaviour in a World Cup year. Apparently, in the years when Brazil win the World Cup, Brazilians go absolutely bananas for memorabilia, and completed Panini World Cup albums have a particularly high value in such an eventuality. So the shifty gents by the newspaper stall were simply sniffing out a business opportunity.

Isn’t football great?